Once again the holiday season is upon us. I must admit, whenever Christmas starts showing it’s shiny, white head I get as giddy as my two-year-old when he sees Thomas the Train. I just love it, love everything about it! I always have, and I’m pretty sure I always will. I have about a dozen movies that are brought out and dusted off every year, and I’m the annoying person who wants to put up the tree and decorations long before Thanksgiving. I love how the snow is still magical and everyone seems a little bit nicer. Now that I have kids, Christmas is even more amazing. There are even more movies to be watched and traditions to be started. One of the best ones we’ve started is every year on Christmas Eve, we bake a birthday cake together. It’s so easy for the kids to be sucked up into the presents and looking forward to  Christmas for all the wrong reasons. Don’t get me wrong, presents are awesome. But, so is cake. And if you want two small children to pay attention to something other than presents, putting a homemade cake (ok, so it’s from a box) in front of their cute little faces is a pretty good way to do it. We sit around the table, lights blazing on top of the cake, and sing happy birthday to Jesus. It’s a wonderful time together, and that’s what Christmas is all about.

Even though the cake is delicious and our traditions are plentiful, presents are what my kids can’t stop talking about. Seriously, if I have to hear, “Mommy, look at that. I want that for Christmas!” one more time I just might scream. Every commercial, every toy in the toy aisle, every playdate…these are the words that pour out of my daughter’s mouth. It’s getting old. We’re trying to explain to her that the best gifts aren’t the ones that you get at the store. They are thoughtful gifts that money doesn’t necessarily buy. My mom gave me one of these gifts over the weekend. My mom has read all three books that I have written (ask and I’m sure she will tell you how great they all are, ha!)  Unbeknownst to me, she printed off several pages from each manuscript and used the pages to make beautiful, homemade ornaments. I was floored! These ornaments will hang on my tree for years to come, and they will always remind of me of how I got started writing romance novels. These three manuscripts will always hold a special place in my heart, and now on my tree as well. She went a step further and made a homemade doll house out of an old dresser for Tootsie. She was a living example to my kids of how using your heart rather than your wallet is the best way to show people how much you love them.

Tootsie must have been taking notes. She has been talking non stop about what gifts she can give to her friends. She can make a finger painting for our neighbor lady, she can give her best friend one of her teacups for her to use with her baby doll, and she wants to write a book for her mommy. I don’t think my heart could have possibly gotten any fuller when she told me this. One of the hardest parts of writing for me hasn’t been making sure my word count is high enough or my plot moves along seamlessly. It has been getting past the mommy guilt that rears its ugly head every time I sit at my computer while my daughter is left to her own devices. Writing has affected my life greatly, and in extremely positive ways, but it’s also affected hers. Before I had my son (and started writing) my days were dedicated to her and only her. Now, please understand that she’s an extremely independent child who likes to have her own space and time, so this didn’t mean I was glued to her side all day every day. It did mean that we had a ton of one-on-one time filled with fun activities. Then came baby brother. We both had to navigate the murky waters of learning to go from a one child household, to one with two kids. She’s been amazing with her brother from day one, and I have made sure to dedicate nap times to giving her that special mommy/daughter time we both needed.

Enter writing. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Words just poured out of me when I sat down at my computer, and I craved the time to sit and write. Now, with two small kids time is very limited for a mom to do mom things. This time was, and still is, carved out during my sons nap time and when the kids go to bed. Good for Spud and Mom, not so much for Tootsie. I’ve struggled to find a good balance between giving her the time she needs and giving myself the time  I need. I know this isn’t a new struggle for a mom to have, but it’s been a new one for me. And I’ve feared that it’s been a struggle I’ve been failing. So when Tootsie told me she wanted to write me a book, the guilt I constantly carry with me melted away a bit. It melted even more when she sat down with a blank piece of paper and drew an amazing picture and told her dad what she wanted her book to say. When she said she wanted to learn to write so she can write her own words, I almost cried. When she said she wanted to be a writer when she grows up like mommy, I did cry. To be fair, in the same sentence she said she also wanted to be a teacher, a ballerina, and a nail designer. What can I say, the girls got gumption.

So, it turns out that my teeny, tiny little girl may want us to buy her every toy ever created for Christmas, but she also knows exactly what giving a gift that truly matters really means. It means she uses her heart to figure out what would mean the most to the people she loves in this world. It means giving selflessly of your time, and your things, for the benefit of others. Sure, she might be getting too many presents this year, but I’d like to think I’ve given her something special this year as well. Something that she will carry with her for years to come and always remember. I hope I’ve shown her it’s important to make sure she tries her hardest to do her best for the people she loves, even if she thinks she’s failing. I hope I’ve given her the knowledge that it’s always important to be true to herself and the talents God gave her. Even if that means she’s teaching writing while dancing ballet with her pretty nails.

Happy Holidays!